January 29, 2015

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Tax Identity Theft – Do You Know How to Spot a Scam? (Part 2)

This is part two of a two-part series celebrating Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week.

In part one of our coverage about how to spot tax identity theft, we explained how thieves make use of email to go phishing for your personal information. But when it comes to exploiting fear about tax missteps, identity thieves aren’t hesitant to employ some old-fashioned mail and phone fraud, too.

At least a few times a year, the IRS issues consumer alerts to raise awareness of the types of tax identity theft schemes gaining popularity among thieves. For example, in August 2014, the agency noted that telephone scam artists were cropping up across the country. The IRS said these thieves might know a great deal about you already — which makes them sound legitimate — and they can even alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.

Sometimes, a scammer will mail or fax an official-looking form that seems legit, but asks for detailed personal and financial information. One popular type for IRS identity theft is “Form 1040, Certificate Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Recertification and Withholding.” In reality, there is no such IRS form, and the type of information included on this bogus document — your bank account number, mother’s maiden name and PIN numbers — is information the IRS would never request.

Tips for Protection

Here are some tips to ensure you don’t fall victim to phone or mail scams:

  • The IRS will never call you to demand immediate payment, call without having mailed you a notice first, ask you to pay taxes without having the opportunity to appeal or require that you use a specific payment method (e.g. credit card). If you get a call that involves any of these tactics, hang up and report the call to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484 or www.tigta.gov.
  • Be suspicious of any mail purporting to be from the IRS that demands immediate payment by calling a certain phone number and giving bank account or credit card information. If there’s a legitimate issue with your taxes, the IRS will always give you the opportunity to dispute the claim.
  • If you receive a legitimate notice from the IRS about duplicate tax filings, wage issues or other tax-related problems, respond immediately to the name and number printed on the letter. If you’re unsure if the notice is truly from the IRS, you can call the agency’s toll-free number to confirm: 800-829-1040. In some areas, there are IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers where you can get help face-to-face.

While you’re collecting your receipts, documents and bank statements for filing your taxes in the coming months, be sure to stay vigilant about defeating IRS identity theft. In honor of Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week — January 26-30 — learn more about the issue and stay out of the crosshairs of tax identity thieves.

For more information on protecting your identity this tax season, please refer to these related posts:

Image courtesy of Flickr user frankieleon.

Judy Leary

President at IdentityForce
For Judy, identity theft protection is in her DNA—her dad started IdentityForce’s parent company in the 70s, and in the 80s, she and her brother came on board. She loves her dedicated team and how much they care about every member, partner, and supplier. In addition to protection against identity theft, Judy is passionate about travel (Aruba is her “happy place”!) and giving back. She volunteers for the Alzheimer’s Association, Mazie Mentoring Program, and Sunshine Golden Retriever Rescue. She’s also a proud mom to 2 grown daughters and 3 rescue dogs.

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